Graduate Student Employment and Other Graduate Aid

Policy number: 2.22

Policy section: Academic Affairs

Revised Date: November 13, 2023

1.  Policy Statement

It is the policy of the University to support the educational training and research mission of the University through the use of targeted Graduate Student Assistantships, stipends, and tuition remissions in some disciplines.

2.  Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to establish categories for graduate students employed by the University in its teaching, research and administrative functions and to describe policies pertaining to their appointment, compensation, rights and responsibilities, and evaluation and reappointment. It also delineates the distinction between these policies and those pertaining to graduate students receiving only stipends and tuition remission as graduate aid.

3.  Categories of Graduate Student Employment and Graduate Aid

The following definitions pertain to the categories of employment and graduate aid for students registered in graduate programs of the University:

  1. Graduate Student Assistants (“GSA”) are graduate students whose financial aid is at least partially provided through compensation for work. These appointments are made for an academic year, for only one semester, or for the summer. The four categories of GSAs are:
    1. Teaching Assistants (“TA”) are employed to assist in teaching or teaching-related activities. TAs may lead group discussions, monitor exams, grade papers, help prepare lectures, or conduct laboratory sessions, all under the direct supervision of the faculty. This practical teaching experience is intended to complement the student’s formal instruction, in addition to providing financial support.
    2. Research Assistants (“RA”) are employed to assist in research-related activities under the direct supervision of the faculty. The RA normally is part of a research team working on a long-term project. This research experience is intended to complement the student’s formal instruction, and may lead to a thesis, dissertation, and publications.
    3. Graduate Student Instructors (“GSI”) have major responsibility for instruction of a course in serving and being listed as the primary instructor for a credit-bearing course.  This role is reserved for graduate students who have advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. or already hold a master’s degree (or satisfy the SACSCOC requirements for credentialing) in the field of instruction. GSIs must have received pedagogical training and must be supervised by a full-time SMU faculty member, within the supervision parameters laid out in their School/College guidelines. Serving as a GSI is intended to provide students with essential professional development experience for their fields. This advanced teaching experience complements the student’s formal instruction and provides financial support.
    4. Graduate Assistants (“GA”) are employed to assist and carry out administrative work. These tasks often include miscellaneous administrative, clerical, and general office work. Although the work may be related to the students’ educational and career objectives, the purpose of the employment is primarily for financial support.
  2. Stipends are payments to graduate students when there are no requirements to perform any work to earn the payment. Stipends are typically means of transferring funds to students from training grants and special fellowships.
  3. Tuition remission is a waiver of tuition for courses taken by graduate students.

4.  Remarks

  1. The University categorizes the compensation of GSAs according to the relationship between the purpose and type of work performed, the student’s graduate program, and the nature of the work required. The compensation levels may vary among disciplines. Within an academic unit, similarly qualified persons with the same experience performing similar work are compensated at the same rate regardless of the source of funds.
  2. Tuition remission is provided as a fellowship and no compensatory work is expected in return.
  3. The offers of assistantship, as well as stipend/tuition remission, like admission, are based on the merits of the applicants. Assistantships are also dependent on how suitable the student is to perform the duties.
  4. The continuation and the renewal of GSAs and stipend/tuition remissions are contingent on satisfactory progress in the students’ degree programs. In the case of GSAs, continuation and renewal of appointments are also contingent on satisfactory performance in the work assigned.
  5. The University recognizes GSAs as students whose employment is part of their training, whether it is part of the curriculum or not. Therefore, the same student codes of conduct govern GSAs and those students receiving stipends/tuition remission as those that apply to all students. In addition, as student employees, GSAs are expected to perform their duties as determined by their supervisors.
  6. Departments/graduate programs/divisions/schools make decisions with recommendations from faculty on appointment of GSAs and offers of stipend and tuition remissions.

5.  Questions

Questions regarding this policy should be directed to the Office of the Provost.

Revised: November 13, 2023

Adopted: October 25, 1999